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November 25, 2014

To whom it may concern,
It is a true pleasure to provide my highest recommendation for Joshua Thomas as he is considered for a position with your
organization. I have known Josh for the entirety of his undergraduate career at SMU, including teaching him in two
different courses. Through all of my many interactions with Josh over the past year, I have come to know him as a student
and person of the very highest caliber. With his outstanding work ethic, natural intelligence, and creative spirit, he will be a
substantial asset to your organization.
During the Spring 2014 semester, Josh was enrolled in Introduction to Engineering Design (KNW 2300), a
multidisciplinary, team-based, project-oriented design course for first- and second-year engineering students at SMU. Each
team works to build an autonomous robotics system capable of navigating a playing field, locating a water well, testing the
well’s turbidity and salinity, and developing a remediation plan. Early in each semester, teams are usually a little shellshocked at the complexity of the challenge before them. However, one of my first memories of Josh in that class were from
the beginning of the project design phase where he was leading his team through some design sketches on a whiteboard and
talking through the strengths and weaknesses of the various designs. It was then that I had my first clue that Josh and his
team were going to be a “force to be reckoned with” during the end-of-semester competition. He demonstrated not only
keen engineering design intuition, but he also showed us that he was an outstanding team leader. However, he did not
attempt to exert any typical positional leadership tactics such as dictating to other what he wanted them to do. Quite the
opposite, Josh very diplomatically and in a servant-leadership style was hands-on in the design and implementation of their
robot and helped each team-member’s ideas to be heard and considered. My initial instincts were correct – going in to the
competition, Josh’s team was the team to beat!
Currently, Josh is enrolled in my Data Structures course (CSE 2341), and I am happy to report that his talents do not lie only
in mechanical engineering. He is pursuing a minor in computer science as well, for which Data Structures is a required
course. It has a reputation of being one of the most challenging and time consuming courses for computer science majors
and minors. That hasn’t swayed Josh though; he isn’t afraid of a challenge and doesn’t back away from hard work. In this
course as well, he has been a top performer throughout the entire semester and I am confident that he will earn one of the
highest grades in the course. But, that’s one of the great things about Josh – he isn’t in it for the A. He genuinely wants to
learn the material and skills. The outstanding grades are simply a by-product of his hard work and desire for mastery.
On a personal note, Josh and I have chatted many times about careers, the future of computer science as a discipline, his
side design projects, and countless other things. He is an outstanding student in the truest sense, and I hold him in the
highest regard. I’m quite certain that he is the type of students that faculty members secretly wish filled their classrooms
and labs. I have no doubt that his curiosity, creative spirit, and intellectual giftedness will take him very far during and after
college. Given the above, I have no reservations in giving Josh my highest recommendation. Should you have additional
questions, please feel free to contact me at mfonten@lyle.smu.edu.
Very sincerely,

Mark Fontenot
Clinical Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
Director of Introduction to Engineering Design Program

Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Southern Methodist University PO Box 750122 Dallas TX 75275-0122
214-768-3083 Fax 214-768-3085 lyle.smu.edu/cse